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Communication by physicians 'key to correct use of high blood pressure drugs'

Patients whose healthcare providers adopt a collaborative communication style are more likely to take their high blood pressure medication correctly, according to a recent study. Research published in the American Heart Association's (AHA) journal Circulation: Quality and Outcomes suggests patients are three times more likely to take high blood pressure medication correctly when treated by providers using a collaborative communication style. 

This style of communication includes asking open-ended questions and checking patients properly understand the instructions they are given. A further finding of the report was that patients are six times less likely to take medicine correctly when providers do not make inquiries about social issues, such as relationships with partners, state of employment, and housing. 

More than 75 million adults in the US have high blood pressure, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, barely half (54 percent) of these individuals have the condition under control. In 2013, high blood pressure was the primary cause of more than 360,000 American deaths. Medication is often used by physicians to treat and control high blood pressure and commonly prescribed medicines include thiazide diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors.

Researchers conducting the study recorded interactions in three practices in New York City. They also monitored how the medication was taken using an electronic monitoring device, which recorded the time and date whenever a pill bottle was opened.

Antoinette Schoenthaler, the lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine at NYU School of medicine in New York City, asserted: "Healthcare providers should talk to patients about the things that get in the way of taking their medication, such as relationship status, employment, and housing. Unemployment, for example, affects whether patients can afford medication, which is a primary risk factor for non-adherence."

When patients are asked about their "life challenges" by healthcare providers, it indicates a higher level of genuine care and improves the confidence and motivation of patients to work on managing their own health issues, Schoenthaler added. 

In August 2017, another study, published in the AHA's journal Hypertension suggested only 40 percent of young adults with high blood pressure in 2013-14 had their condition under control. It also found awareness, treatment, and control were particularly lacking among young men.